- Gary Gillette, ESPN.com MLB insider contributor
On May 9, 2005, the new Golden Baseball League announced the San Diego Surf Dawgs had signed 46-year-old Rickey Henderson. Henderson should make his debut for the Surf Dawgs when the GBL opens its inaugural season today, marking his 30th season in professional baseball. That's not a record: Hall of Famer Satchel Paige played for more than 30 pro seasons over a period of more than 40 years, and Deadball Era Negro League star "Home Run" Johnson played until he was 58.
Henderson isn't the only old-timer hoping a stint with an indy league team might pave his way back to the majors. Former Red Sox star Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, 45, is attempting a highly unlikely comeback with the Brockton Rox of the Canadian-American League after not pitching since 1997 for the independent Massachusetts Mad Dogs. If he sticks around, Boyd won't be seeing too many ex-major leaguers in the Can-Am League, though Elmira features former Pittsburgh and Detroit outfielder Trey Beamon and former Milwaukee and Florida pitcher Allen Levrault.
Perhaps the best example of what a stint with an independent team can do to resurrect a career is that of Jose Lima. Playing off-off-Broadway worked beautifully for Lima, who signed with the Newark Bears in 2003 at age 31 after three miserable seasons with Detroit and Houston. Lima shot out of the gate with a 6-1 record in the Atlantic League, then signed with the Royals and was back in the majors by mid-June. Though he's taken his lumps so far this year, Lima pitched pretty well in 2003 (adjusted ERA 100) and 2004 (AERA 102). Most important, "Lima time" is still running in prime time.